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Ode to a Chorus Line: Singing and Dancing at the Same Time

Robin Alexander

Posted on December 11, 2018 14:38

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There's a song in Monty Python’s Spamalot (2005) called "You Won’t Succeed on Broadway if you Don’t Have any Jews." Here are some introductory lyrics: Broadway is a very special place / Filled with very special people / People who can sing and dance / Often at the same time!! Well I’m here to tell you … it ain’t easy.

Musical theater is my lifelong passion. I participated throughout my youth – with studios, at camp, in school – and I’ve done some straight acting lately.

Nowadays, I take one or two dance classes a week; I sing karaoke and practice conscientiously at home (which makes a HUGE difference because, alas, I do not have a “voice”). And so, at the seasoned age of 62 I tried out for Chicago (which my dance studio Muse for the Arts is producing), and I landed a small role – Mary Sunshine.

This requires that I sing and dance at the same time, just like those very special people on Broadway. Well, did you ever try concurrently rotating your arms in opposite directions? It’s something like that.

Just about everyone else is 45 years younger than me. Eight weeks into rehearsals, I have no trouble keeping up with the dancing; I have no trouble memorizing lines and lyrics.

However, if I concentrate on dancing, no words exit my mouth. If I focus on singing, my body loses any semblance of clear distinct lines.

Now, if we sang every line of the song I could, perhaps, put that part of my brain on auto pilot. But we sing every other line. And then we don’t sing at all. And then I sing alone. And then we go back to every other line. Seriously?

If we danced in regular formation throughout I could, perhaps, put that part of my brain on auto pilot. But we start in a clump, then spread out, then return to a clump, then spread out again, then I move to the second line, then back up to the front line. You’re kidding, right?

I have to think like a three-dimensional chess player for four minutes straight, in time to music, while positioning myself around 20 other moving people. Go ahead; you try it.

Then we make itty bitty changes weekly because, that’s what working with 20 people requires, especially when they aren’t ever ALL THERE at the same time! And then I need to incorporate those itty bitty changes into my brain and muscle memory. Backspace. Enter. Save.

Because it’s all about making every moment the best it can possibly be. All of us, together, each doing his or her part. And maybe that’s why I love it so much.

Where else can you experience the intense joy of creation and community simultaneously, but in a chorus line?

When tech week comes, we'll do it in an entirely different space, and without that studio mirror reflecting support at every moment (god, I look good). That’s when it’ll get very real.

There will be mistakes; there always are. That’s part of the magic of live theater.

And, I will tell you this. Broadway or the Fort Lauderdale Main Library stage – it matters not. It’s about honoring the writers and composers. It’s about honoring your director and choreographer. It’s about honoring the audience.

It’s about honoring each other.

And all that jazz.

Robin Alexander

Posted on December 11, 2018 14:38

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